UPDATE: Sen. Pat Roberts’ office tells KAKE News that Pioneer Wireless has agreed to temporarily restore power to their cell towers in the Longton area, until a permanent solution can be found. Phones should be ringing again by Friday, Saturday at the latest.
U.S. Cellular’s media representative told KAKE News Thursday the company is “working to find a possible solution.”
Senator Roberts’ office says right now it looks like U.S. Cellular will try to install its own equipment on the current tower, to provide long term service.
The senator’s office credits KAKE On Your Side’s reporting with the quick resolution to the cell phone silence in Longton.
“Thank you for alerting us to the situation there. If it weren’t for your reporting, this probably would have taken several more days for anyone there to alert us,” wrote Sarah Little, Roberts’ Communication Director. “Thanks to your work, we avoided an emergency. Please let us know if you hear of any problems with the execution of this solution.”
“You never know when an emergency is going to happen,” said Jason Crawford, superintendent of the Elk Valley Public Schools in Longton, Kansas.
It now appears the federal government has declared the lack of cell service in Longton a federal emergency.
“We understand they have been given clearance by counsel to work on this issue during the shut-down because it has been deemed an emergency,” said Sarah Little in an e-mail. She’s Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ Communications Director.
The town of Longton lost all cell service January 1st. KAKE News first reported the story Tuesday night.
The biggest concern, residents told us, was safety – from wildfire dangers to school security and medical emergencies. They said they just wanted to know what’s going on.and how long it will last.
“We were all told it would get better after the first of the year. Well, it got worse,” said Mona Cody, who works at Kirk’s Mini Mart in Longton.
The town was in the middle of switching from one provider, Pioneer Wireless out of Oklahoma, to another, U.S. Cellular, when residents completely lost cell service on New Year’s Day.
“I’d like information,” said Elk County Commissioner Shari Kaminska. “I’d like to know if this is our new normal.”
To find out what was happening we reached out by phone, e-mail and social media to regulators, cell phone companies, and Kansas’ congressional delegation.
Sen. Pat Roberts’ Office told us they’re working with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
“There are a number of ways they think they can help, like bringing in temporary cell infrastructure until they can work with the providers. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I wanted to let you know the FCC has been very responsive,” Little said. “So I hope to have more good news to report soon.”
State Rep. Leo Delperdang serves on the Kansas House’s Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee. He says from his conversations with U.S. Cellular it sounds like it’s a technical problem.
“It’s more of an issue of everybody coming onto the network all at once,” Delperdang texted. “They are sending crews out to investigate and figure out how to remedy the situation. It may be a case of additional amplifiers at the towers or it may require more transmitters, etc.”
U.S. Cellular told us they’re asking anyone who’s lost service to contact the company. Customers can go either to the U.S. Cellular store in Independence or the one in Coffeyville to report in person. Or, they can report online at www.uscc.com. Those with access to a working landline can also report by phone at 888-289-8722.
In a written statement, the company said, “We understand that Pioneer Cellular exiting the marketplace has created a network disruption for customers in Longton. We are currently reviewing our network capabilities to see if we can improve our service in the area.”
While no one could give us an exact timeline for getting cell service back up and running in Longton, most agreed it shouldn’t be a long-term outage. KAKE On Your Side will continue to follow this case until the phones are ringing once again.